Chuck Palahniuk paused while describing the story of the upcoming “Fight Club 2” to read the Comic-Con reminder that some audience members may be under 18.
He then mentioned, in moderate language, that the unnamed narrator from his 1996 novel and fellow support group faker Marla, now married in the 10-issue Dark Horse comic book continuation, “haven’t had great sex in 10 years,” since Tyler Durden was around.
“And Marla is desperate to get laid the way she got laid by Tyler, even if it means titrating her husband’s medication so that late at night she can coax Tyler out of suppression,” Palahniuk said, “even if it means doing this to the extent that Tyler is more and more in the world and eventually destroys their home and their family and drags them into chaos” in search of the couple’s 9-year-old son, whom Durden has absconded with.
The novelist was speaking during a Dark Horse-hosted Sunday panel in which, he, Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt detailed their three respective upcoming titles with the publisher: “Fight Club 2,” the stranded-superheroes saga “Black Hammer” and the far-future-astronauts-back-in-our-time tale “PastAways.” The three series are one-quarter of an ambitious slate of creator-owned projects the Milwaukie, Ore.-based company announced across the 12 days leading up to the start of Comic-Con International in San Diego. The writers were joined by Cameron Stewart and David Mack, the interior artist and cover artist, respectively, on “Fight Club 2,” and Dark Horse editor in chief Scott Allie, who moderated.
Palahniuk said the new “Fight Club” has sequel and prequel elements, and involves the idea that Tyler Durden is something that has visited generation after generation, looking for a person he can occupy to dominate the world.
That person would be the narrator and Marla’s son.
Stewart said that the events Palahniuk had described were just in the first issue, and Mack added that “the idea that their child is talking to an invisible friend is spooky.”
“Not just any invisible friend,” Palahniuk said.
One appeal of doing the new story in comics instead of a prose novel was to be a student learning a new art form – “the idea of being the idiot again,” Palahniuk said, learning things like writing to make page turns dramatic and to not ask for motion within individual panels. Another: “I also like the kind of wiggle room that comics give” in not necessarily looking realistic “because people have always kind of criticized me for writing two-dimensional sort of cartoonish characters — but I never wanted to be the characters to be so real that you people didn’t get a kind of message.”
As a collaborator in a new medium, he seems to be cooperative. Stewart, an Eisner-winning comics creator, said that when he’d completed the art for a particular page, he noticed he’d accidentally omitted a panel. As he was trying to figure out a way to alter the art to accommodate the dialogue, Stewart said, Palahniuk decided to just cut down the dialogue instead.
“Black Hammer” marks a change for Lemire. Though he’s worked with artists on DC superhero titles including “Green Arrow” and “Animal Man,” he has until now handled the art himself for creator-owned projects including the Eisner-nominated “Trillium” and “Sweet Tooth.” The new Dark Horse series will be drawn by Dean Ormston (“Lucifer”).
Lemire had sketched the characters for his “love letter to superhero comics” seven or eight years ago, but found he didn’t have time to draw the series. Ormston’s “left of center” style has turned the five heroes — Barralien, Madame Dragonfly, Abraham Slam, Col. Weird and Golden Gail — into something unique, the writer said, though he also mentioned his own art probably won’t be wholly absent: He may do variant covers or find other ways to feature it in the series. The crowd was shown Lemire’s early, “Who’s Who in the DC Universe”-style sketches/biographies, and then what he called Ormston’s “much cooler” versions.
The story’s heroes are from different eras of comic book history but have been “wiped out of continuity,” Lemire said. After waking on a farm with no idea how they arrived or how to return to their universe, they try to fit in. “Black Hammer” picks up about 10 years after their arrival, and the how and why of their reality-changing situation will be an ongoing mystery.
“[I]t’s very much character-driven, small-town-life kind of stuff,” Lemire said, “and then we constantly flash back to their adventures in the past.”
Kindt (“Mind Mgmt”) and artist Scott Kolins’ astronauts in “PastAways” are from 10,000 years in the future but come back to present day. As the series continues, Kindt said, readers will see not just how weird our world is to these visitors, but other odd things – a tiny dinosaur, a battle with a giant robot (two things that grew out of conversations with Kolins about what he likes to draw).
The astronauts also come to think they’re immortal.
“[F]or the first half of the series they start to come to grips with what that is like, living forever,” Kindt said. “Halfway through, one of them dies and they all freak out.”
Kindt, like his friend Lemire, is used to being a writer-artist with a very distinctive visual style. For “PastAways,” he thought Collins could draw it better — and time was a factor.
“I’m 40,” Kindt said. “I’m like, I’m going to die before I get through my list of ideas.”
He was at one point going to draw Lemire’s “Black Hammer,” but the scheduling didn’t line up.
Lemire ribbed the “PastAways” writer in talking about their coming up in the comics industry together: “Matt’s been good for me because … both of our styles are very stylized and so people either hate them or like them. We’re not like the most expert draftsmen in the world, but we certainly know how to tell a story. So it’s always good whenever someone’s knocking down my style: I remember that Matt’s worse than me.”
Mack’s work as a writer-artist was also a topic. Dark Horse has recently reissued his “Reflections” in hardcover, and will soon release an oversize hardcover of “Dream Logic,” a four-part series Mack had done at Marvel’s Icon imprint. The new volume will feature 48 pages of extra work, including short autobiographical stories. Also, the next issue of the Eisner Award-winning anthology series “Dark Horse Presents” features Mack’s first “Kabuki” story in several years.
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